When You Have a Sweet Craving (and grapes won’t cut it)
- Mel’s weekly food pick: Pure Maple Syrup
- Mel’s weekly recipe pick: Maple Pumpkin 3-Seed Brittle
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I always cringe just a bit whenever I overhear a well-meaning health professional/coach suggest we “eat a cluster of grapes” to curb our pressing sweet tooth.
I cringe because I used to offer the same suggestion (eek!).
So what’s wrong with this advice? I mean, it sounds reasonable enough, doesn’t it?
It’s reasonable…until you try it.
When I attempted to follow my own recommendation and chomp on a handful of red grapes, when what I was really craving was an ooey-gooey vanilla hot fudge sundae with salted nuts and whipped cream, I would eat the grapes…and then the sundae (and often a cookie too, because after all I just blew it…or so I told myself).
How could I continue dispensing this advice when I couldn’t follow it myself? I couldn’t.
Sometimes you don’t want flippin’ grapes!
Here’s the thing– sometimes you don’t want grapes! Sometimes you want ooey-gooey, covered in caramel and chocolate sauce! And dammit, sometimes you just want to feel human and not like a robotic, grape-eating student of perfect nutrition.
The truth is, we all like a little ooey-gooey (or crispy, salty, not-kale) once in a while. These “imperfections” are actually part of the perfection of this Universe, and honoring them is one of the most honorable things you can do…provided you aren’t doing it every single day (and if that’s the case, we need to talk?).
So is there a way to have your ooey-gooey and eat it too?
Yes! And in this short post I will offer you three effective strategies depending on the depth and nature of your craving.
3 Ways to settle your sweet tooth
To choose the strategy that is right for you in the moment, begin by asking yourself “what am I craving?” If your answer is very generic, such as sweet, salty, or crunchy, you will find the first strategy to be very effective. The second and third strategies are for more specific cravings.
Strategy #1: Craving something sweet but NOT specific
If you simply have a taste for something sweet, without a particular attribute like “ooey-gooey” or “sweet and crunchy”, here’s where a cluster of grapes, a sweet Fuji apple, or small bowl of fresh berries can work beautifully.
Give it a try and see what happens, but don’t judge it as a failure if you’re still craving sweet afterwards. This just means your craving was probably more specific than you realized. Ask yourself “what specifically am I craving?” and move on to strategy two.
Strategy #2: Craving something sweet AND specific
If you can describe your craving (assuming it’s not for grapes?), consider what I call an “upgraded’ version of the original. Notice I didn’t say “healthy”; there’s a big difference. While the upgrade may wind up being healthy, I find it best to avoid trying to turn a traditional favorite into something totally unrecognizable by your taste buds. It takes away all the fun…and will probably leave your craving unfulfilled.
For example, I rarely crave ice cream, but when I do I can’t get it out of my mind. Last week was one of those occasions.
Now, I could’ve gone to the grocery store and picked up a container of plain Greek yogurt and mixed it with berries, nuts and honey– an example of a “healthified” version of ice cream. But dammit, I wanted ice cream! Frozen, ooey-gooey, whipped cream…you know what I’m talkin’ about!
So here’s what I did.
After dinner, Wayne and I made a special trip to Mitchell’s ice cream shop in Ohio City and treated ourselves to real ice cream.
I chose a Pumpkin Patch Sundae, with pumpkin spice ice cream made with roasted pumpkin and the milk of local grass-fed cows, homemade whipped cream, salted pecans, and caramel sauce without any artificial ingredients.
Was it healthy? Hell no! But I wasn’t after health. I eat ice cream maybe twice a year, and dammit…I wanted ice cream. Not low-sugar frozen yogurt with berries. Screw berries- I wanted whipped cream!
The key to this second strategy is exercising thoughtful intention. To do this, ask yourself: how can I make this choice a little better without robbing it of the flavors and attributes I am after?
Notice how I exercised thoughtful intention with my choice: a company who makes their own ice cream from scratch using locally sourced, fair trade ingredients. By the way, I couldn’t even finish it because it was way too sweet for my buds. Next time I’ll order it with just a drizzle of caramel sauce.
Strategy #3: Craving something sweet and SUPER specific
If your sweet craving is so specific and can’t possibly be upgraded– which by the way is rarely the case if you really examine it–then just go for it my friend.
For example, when I’m craving a maple cream Jack Frost donut, there’s not one impostor out there that can even come close to comparing with the real thing. And once I year…I absolutely go for it on my birthday.
Here’s the thing, if you decide to implement this strategy you must be willing to do four things:
- Enjoy it immensely.
- Eat it slowly and savor all of the flavors of this divine treat before you.
- Pay attention to how your body is receiving the food. Ask yourself: Is my craving satisfied yet? Even though you may have only eaten seven spoonfuls of ice cream, your craving may in fact be satisfied, and eating any more may actually make you sick!
- Eat it without guilt and don’t reprimand yourself for a week afterwards. If you plan on doing this, don’t even bother eating it in the first place!
In other words, don’t eat it with wild abandon like a dog who just discovered a half-eaten pot roast within paw’s reach.
Plan when you’ll eat it, and then…enjoy it!
Mel’s weekly food pick:
Pure Maple Syrup
No, it’s not a health food. Pure maple syrup is still 100% sugar and will raise your blood sugar, but it’s one of those “upgraded” ingredients I mentioned in the above post.
It does have a slightly lower glycemic response compared to regular old table sugar, but that’s not why I consider it an upgrade.
Unlike Aunt Jemima, Log Cabin, or any other commercial pancake syrup, pure maple syrup is a product of Mother Nature and has literally one ingredient: PURE MAPLE SYRUP.
By contrast, check out the ingredient list of Aunt Jemima’s Original Syrup:
CORN SYRUP, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, WATER, CELLULOSE GUM, CARAMEL COLOR, SALT, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, SODIUM BENZOATE AND SORBIC ACID (PRESERVATIVES), SODIUM HEXAMETAPHOSPHATE
Come on! Your body deserves better than this garbage disguised as maple syrup. By the way, Aunt Jemima’s Butter Rich Syrup contains NO butter (it says so right on the front!). What you’re really tasting is artificial flavors and chemicals.
Pure maple syrup produced earlier in the season– called Grade A Golden Color Delicate Taste or Grade A Amber Color Rich Taste– tends to be lighter in color and more subtle in flavor. Dark robust syrup is produced later in the season and is labeled as either Grade A Dark Color Robust Taste or Grade A Very Dark Color Strong Taste.
Nutritionally, pure maple syrup offers approximately 24 different antioxidants and a handful of vitamins and minerals, including zinc, manganese, potassium, calcium, and riboflavin. Some research shows that darker syrups tend to be richer in antioxidants than lighter varieties.
Check out this week’s recipe pick for Maple Pumpkin 3-Seed Brittle, it uses a touch of pure maple syrup as the sweetener!
Mel’s weekly recipe pick:
Maple Pumpkin 3-Seed Brittle